Larry Jean Gordon was born on October 16, 1926, in Tipton, Tillman County, Oklahoma. In 1930, the family moved to New Mexico, where he and his older brother, Ladd, grew up. Both served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Mr. Gordon received his B.S. in biology in 1949 and an M.S. in biology with an emphasis in ecology from the University of New Mexico. In 1954, he received a Master in Public Health degree from the University of Michigan.
Following a year as a high school science teacher, Mr. Gordon began his distinguished career with the New Mexico Department of Public Health in 1950. First working as a County Sanitarian, he was appointed State Food Sanitarian in 1951. In 1955, Mr. Gordon created the nation’s first local environmental health department in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He developed programs that addressed pure food control, subdivision control, water quality, liquid waste disposal, air pollution, housing conservation and rehabilitation, industrial hygiene, model cities, urban renewal, solid waste management, low-rent leased public housing and animal control, in addition to pre-existing programs of food and milk sanitation and meat inspection. These programs were based on his concern for the well-being of present and future citizens. Also Mr. Gordon saw that the programs incorporated objectives of long-range planning, growth management, prevention and protection. During this time, Mr. Gordon expanded the scope of his department to include Bernalillo County. The city/county air pollution program he initiated was one of the first in the country.
During his 38 years of public service, Larry Gordon was a sanitarian in various local, county and state positions; the founding director of the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Environmental Health Department; the founding director of the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Agency (NM Environment Department); the founding director of the New Mexico Scientific Laboratory System; deputy cabinet secretary for Health and Environment; president of the American Public Health Association; a USPHS Commissioned Officer; and the New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for Health and Environment. He was a founder of the Council on Education for Public Health, the national accrediting agency for schools of public health, and he was a founder of the American Intersociety Academy for the Certification of Sanitarians (now the American Academy of Sanitarians). He retired from public service in 1988 and accepted appointment as a Visiting Professor in the School of Public Administration, University of New Mexico, from 1988 to 1997. He also was a Senior Fellow at the University of New Mexico Institute for Public Policy from 1997 to 1999, and he became an Adjunct Professor in the Political Science Department in 1996. In 2004, Mr. Gordon officially retired from the University. In 2007, the University of New Mexico granted Mr. Gordon an honorary degree, the Doctor of Humane Letters, for his long-term commitment and leadership in the areas of environmental and public health.